Aggies celebrate 100th Awakening retreat

By Mary P. Walker
Senior Correspondent

In October 1983, St. Mary Catholic Center at Texas A&M University sponsored the first Aggie Awakening Retreat. Thirty years and 99 retreats later, the 100th Aggie Awakening will be held Feb. 28-March 2. During that time, past “retreaters,” a term used for the nearly 10,000 who have made the retreat, will gather for a reunion of fellowship, prayer, presentations and fun. 
Awakening is an adaptation of the Cursillo retreat for a college setting, and was developed at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, La. It spread to Louisiana State University, and then came to Texas A&M –– where the Aggies took it to a new level of popularity.
Presently, the retreat is offered three times a year at St. Ann Parish in Somerville, where the students are transported by bus. Each retreat serves 120 students, with many others staffing this large endeavor of love. Retreaters often have such a profound experience that they want to staff subsequent Awakenings. 
In fact, one of the keys to the retreat’s longevity is its system of continuously developing the student leadership staff. Because the retreat is student-led and requires a large staff, the leadership is constantly renewed. Often visitors from other colleges attend the Aggie retreats to learn the process of offering Awakening at their own universities. 
While church bulletins, pulpit announcements, and Facebook postings publicize the retreat, the best advertising is the word-of-mouth. Awakening retreats often serve as a “springboard” for students to commit themselves to Christ and the church. As they become more involved with the programs and activities at St. Mary Catholic Center, they want to share their enthusiasm for the retreat with their peers.
The Aggies are justifiably proud of the longevity of Awakening, and the retreat’s best legacies are the former students who have graduated and serve in parishes as lay leaders, priests, deacons and religious. Although Awakening does not focus on vocations, it has helped many begin to hear God’s call to the priesthood and religious life. 
The retreat is authentically Catholic; however, the retreaters are not required to be Catholic. When he came to Texas A&M, Deacon Craig DeYoung was not Catholic. Invited by another student to attend an Awakening Retreat, he was motivated to deepen his relationship with Jesus Christ. This ultimately led him to join the Catholic Church and to hear God’s call to the priesthood. Deacon DeYoung hopes to be ordained a priest for the Diocese of Austin in June.
The reunion weekend will be a time for former retreaters to reminisce about their own Aggie Awakening experiences and catch up with friends, while also growing in their faith by listening to presentations, attending events and participating in Eucharistic adoration. All who have participated in an Aggie Awakening retreat in the past thirty years are invited to come. 
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